Thursday, September 12, 2013

Solitary swarm

In the fall of 1984 we were finishing a year of direct action, hands-on collective dismantlement of a survey in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We were continuing 14 years of opposition to a command facility that sent orders to all US thermonuclear weapons-carrying submarines, the Ohio-class SSBNs, and to all other US nuclear navy submarines as well, such as the Los Angeles-class hunter-killer SSNs. The opposition was strong in Wisconsin and even stronger in Michigan. The navy was unable to build their command apparatus--consisting of 56 miles of above-ground antenna and deep copper ground shafts plus the transmitters--except by actually building it in direct sight of the surveyors. This is because swarms of us came out every weekend to pull survey ribbons and stakes. The citizen opposition was so fierce in the UP, where 80 percent of the voters, by referenda, had rejected the navy project (Extremely Low Frequency), that no arrests had been made during the entire year, despite our transparency.

So the navy did build it under those conditions and we spent the winter planning our next, much more serious, dismantlement. It is one thing to pull up stakes and pull down ribbons. The 50-60 foot poles that supported the transmission line--a cable thick as your wrist--were the obvious target. I suggested a "human chain saw," by which I meant all of us holding each other like some sort of conga dance, and the first two holding a saw, with which we would collectively cut down a pole and offer ourselves as the ones wishing to go to court over the matter.

However, during that winter, four other activists from the Midwest went on trial for their act of direct disarmament, the symbolic hammering on a six-foot thick steel and concrete lid over a missile in Missouri. They were sentenced to 18, 18, 10 and 8 years in prison. That harsh sentencing changed a few minds and by springtime I was the only one still committed to the saw action. So it goes. I went out that Memorial Day and cut down the pole, turned myself in the next day in Marquette, Michigan, and served a grand total of two weeks in jail, no prison time. And they call us the anarchists! I had to go out again, some years later, with Donna Howard to cut down three more poles, to finally get my years in prison. Just a few years after that, we shut them down permanently. Never give up. Never.
Well, yesterday was September 11, the 12th anniversary of the terror attack (by al-Qa'ida, the group that Obama and Kerry are now arming in Syria) that ultimately elicited the massive and seemingly permanent Global War on Terror, the mechanism by which Islam could be targeted and the conflict industry enriched at the expense of the average American, the average Afghan, the average Iraqi, and the average Pakistani, for starters. It was a day of contrasts and symbolism, as well as real encounters.

We began the day with a meeting with 10 Iraqi peace educators on a 20-day US mission to network with peace educators here, three interpreters, and five of us from the Oregon Peace Institute, the Portland State University Conflict Resolution graduate program, and the War Prevention Initiative. They were particularly interested in PeaceVoice, our effort to get the knowledge and analysis of peace options from peace intellectuals into the popular press. Since I founded that, I described it and introduced three others who work on it with their media and peace analysis expertise--Dr. Patrick Hiller, Paloma Ayala Vela, and Erin Niemela. And we heard from each Iraqi, all of them peace educators specializing in various areas. On behalf of people who work for peace, I apologized to the Iraqis for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by my government against them and their country. I then elicited a brainstorm from all of us on how we might partner, what might work as partnerships, and who other likely partners might be. I think at the very least we should be able to arrange for some student and possibly professor exchanges. I'm ready! (OK, I'm actually not, since I don't speak Arabic, but if there is any English-language program, sign me up).

That was quite a start to 9.11. Then I went out to join a "bike swarm" that was supposed to go confront some of the war profiteers in my town, in Portland. Whoops. I was alone again. Oh well! I brought printouts of my own writings about them and pedaled to both of them. Precision Cast Parts was first, and the receptionist chuckled at me when I said I was representing the peace movement in Portland and we wanted PCP to stop contracting with the Pentagon. She took my printout and I biked on to the Pacific Northwest Defense Coalition. The woman there was not so amused, claiming that "none of us make anything that hurts anyone." Right. How could bombs, missiles, guns, and knives hurt anyone? The yawning credibility gap remains.

The last interesting bit of September 11, 2013 was that the Portland staffer for US Senator Jeff Merkley actually scheduled a meeting with us. I mean, how totally unnatural is it for those of us in the peace movement when, in regards to the Obama plan to bomb Syria, we end up agreeing with the likes of Mitch McConnell and disagreeing with erstwhile peace Senator Jeff Merkley?

We may not always outnumber them in the streets or the suites, but morally and ethically the peace movement always has the war profiteers surrounded. Our swarm has that high ground and we only await the good day when so many join us that we immobilize and dismantle the war machine, showing the true profit of peace.


willow scar clan said...

I love you Tom Hastings.

Tom H. Hastings said...

Aye, that love will win in the end. It absolutely will, my friend. Thank you. The war makers cannot sustain. Love sustains.